Tag: Business

A Widow’s Perspective: Life without Your Life Partner

“My life is extremely full, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” – Kim

Kim Sutherland is a working mom with two grown boys, ages 22 and 17. Kim has enjoyed a full time career in the travel industry for 20+ years. About ten years ago she opened up her own décor business, as she always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and gain some additional income.

Kim has a busy schedule; however, she is careful to build in time for herself, her family, and volunteering. Kim fosters Labrador Retriever puppies for Dog Guides of Canada. She provides a loving home, follows specific training guidelines to prepare the dogs for their future “service” to a Canadian with a disability. All of the above keeps Kim very busy, and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

What many people may not know about Kim is that she is a widow and became one at a young age with two young children to care for. You can say that her world was rocked but how she coped is an inspiring story that I get to share with all of you as I interviewed Kim for this exclusive piece.

The timing of this article is extra special this week as September 10th is quickly approaching which is a memorable day for Kim. This date was when Kim and her husband, Randy were married and it is also Kim’s birthday. Therefore, this makes it a perfect time to share Kim’s story.

Tell me a little about what your husband was diagnosed with?

“My husband was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia, at the very young age of 39. It came out of nowhere, he did not feel well for three weeks prior to Christmas, needless to say it was shocking news, it rocked our world.”

Once you heard of your husband’s diagnosis and time to live. What did you do and how did you cope?

“My husband was given three months to live, at that time I was holding our six month old infant, Carter and  my other son Matthew (age five). We were living in Calgary at the time, both of our careers had taken us there. We loved being in nature, the mountains, all of the outdoor space and family friendly living. Our family members were all back in Ontario.

Once the doctor gave me the news, I immediately called my parents. My mom jumped on a flight to Calgary to come and help. Doctor’s told me to get help, get paperwork in order, he would die from this. What I struggled to understand, was how does this happen to a guy that was so fit, extremely fun and positive, always. We had everything going for us. I couldn’t believe it, but when the doctor sat me down and calmly explained to me how sick he was, and we were being moved to a terminal ward of the hospital within minutes of the diagnosis, I realized this is serious and happening fast.

“Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.”

Each day was tough, watching someone who was incredibly vibrant maintain his positive attitude and courage (during chemo, brain radiation, hair loss and a bone marrow transplant). To this day, I tell the boys, “Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.” Sadly all the drugs and great healthcare could not keep my husband alive, his body did shut down. We lost him on August 26, 2002. The boys were really young.”

After your husband’s passing, what did you do to help yourself and your children cope?

“I knew I had to continue to be strong, no matter what. I moved back (to Ontario) to be close to family and friends. I enrolled my boys in some activities and even when I had to do the 5 AM hockey practices, bundling an infant and my eldest into the car at that horrible hour on a Saturday or Sunday morning was not necessarily fun, but it was important. The social aspect was great for them and me! I also had the unwavering support of my mom and dad. Truly, my mom is my rock.

Moms are made of something we cannot describe. Somehow we pull energy and strength out when you really feel exhausted, but you get up and put on a smile for your child and that is what matters. You are their world. My mom did a ton to keep the house together, while I ran to/from the hospital. It was a very sad time, but I knew my boys needed me and I had to keep busy to cope. I also knew that my career and the people at work, were good for me. The boys and I did a lot of activities together such as reading, Lego, playing board games, crafting, setting up play dates with other moms and kids, making new traditions.”

What advice can you give a parent who has become a widow with small children?

“Keep positive! Keep their routine, be the parent you wanted to be with your partner/spouse. Don’t be afraid to seek out friends for a shoulder to cry on, or even get professional help to deal with the grief. Nobody knows what it is like until you are in it, so if anyone is not supportive, keep away from those people. Grieving is tough. I suggest you ask someone to take the kids one day a week so you can go do something for yourself. Go to the gym, or for a long walk (or run), meet a friend for a coffee, get a pedicure…you get the idea. It’s about your downtime to re-energize. Kids take a lot of your time and energy. Take a lot of pictures. I found when my husband was sick I didn’t take enough pictures. He didn’t want photos taken (of himself); however, my boys have learned a lot through the videos and pictures we do have.”

How did you do it all? How did you balance two young children, a career and a passion (staging)?

“I did it with the help of family and friends, which I am so grateful for. I love being busy, I don’t stand still often. I started Above & Beyond Décor, to have additional income but it also feeds my creativity. That is what fills me up. Staging is hard work, although it is fun too. You get to create, like a picture in a magazine. Meeting new people, building my business, planning for the future is important to me. I am an advocate for other women, letting them know you need a “plan” i.e. get your financials in order and be ready to take on anything. None of us really know what lies down the garden path, so best to have a plan and have passion.”


Tell me a little about your staging company.

“Above & Beyond Décor was founded as a result of my passion for home décor, floral design, networking and personal growth. I read about home staging and a course that was being offered by a North America staging professional. I decided that would be a great addition to my list of services. I enrolled in the course and became a Certified Staging Professional. Real estate staging is merchandising a property’s best features, understanding lifestyle selling techniques and targeting specific buyers. My friends and family kept telling me I had the “knack” a real talent, knowing how to style and decorate. In order to get that talent noticed, I offered to stage a couple of friend’s homes for free. Their homes sold in a matter of days (with multiple offers on the table), the realtors were very impressed. Soon, a number of realtors were calling me and my business flourished.

I work with a lot of local Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington real estate professionals, they call upon me to stage vacant properties as well as those lived in.

What makes a great stager? Testimonials and referrals. I am extremely pleased with my client testimonials. I often hear that they love my style, my approach (not intrusive), and I am very personable. Comments include: “Your work is amazing;” “Wow, I love how it looks now, I don’t want to move!” “We received multiple offers because of your staging!” or “I need to live like this in my new home.”

What made you decide to become a stager?

“I realized there was a huge opportunity in the market and this just seemed like a natural step forward for me. Realtors and homeowners appreciate when a home sells for top dollar, studies have shown that 65% of buyers prefer to pay more money for a “move in” ready home. Staging is huge now!”

If you could give a younger you some advice on parenting what would it be?

“Hmm, that is tough one. I do not have any regrets, very happy with the way things have worked out for me. I would say getting proper rest is key. Being a parent is fun, challenging, you will be juggling a lot of balls in the air, so when you don’t get enough rest or just need support – Ask for help! Most of us moms don’t ask – we try to be SuperMom and do it all.”

Anything else you would like to add for our readers?

“Melanie, thank you for allowing me to stage your home and for sharing my story on your blog. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mike and Nikki and seeing the smile on your face when you sold for top dollar! As for your readers, fellow mommy friends and family – I look forward to hearing from you. Someone you know might need a stager – that’s me.

Above & Beyond Décor for the ultimate first impression. Staging really sells! Please contact me at kesutherland@cogeco.ca.”

Special thank you to Kim for her time and inspiring us with her strength, courage and passion. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Kim on the staging of my home and to get to know her as a business woman, mother and as a friend.

Kim is such an inspirational person in every way possible!

Losing her life partner was tragic and yet she found the courage and love to cope. I have to admit that this was a tough interview for me to do without shedding tears but it shows you how life has many unexpected turns and we have to embrace and love what we do have in the present. Kim has reminded me how precious life and my life partner are. Thank you Kim and please keep inspiring all with your positive love of life!

I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity to share Kim’s story with all of you and I hope you have been inspired as much as I have.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

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Turning Memories Into Comics

We all know that kids say the funniest and most honest things. So imagine being able to capture these moments in comic form. Well, I am thrilled to say that you can with the help of Matt from Peanuts Gallery Comic who is our “Dad of the Month.”

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Matt grew up in Colorado and moved to New York City right after college. Recently he has moved to the suburbs in New York City with his wife and soon to be six year old son, to give his son more space to run around. People often ask him how he made the transition from Colorado to New York City and he says, “I somehow love the outdoors as much as I love the energy and crowds of New York City.”

I had a chance to connect with Matt to learn more about his unique company.

  1. What does your company do?

“Peanut Gallery Comics turns memories into hand-drawn, custom art. People send in photos and their story, and our writers and illustrators turn them into comic strips.”

Click here to watch the video.

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  1. When did you start your business?

“We’ve been live for just over three months. We started with a Kickstarter campaign and somehow found ourselves fully funded in less than 48 hours. We were lucky enough to end up over 200% funded.”

  1. How did you come up with the idea?

“My son says and does some really funny and cute things. I started keeping a journal of them so I wouldn’t forget them. But I soon found they were just sitting there and I couldn’t really enjoy them. That’s when I came up with the idea to have them made into comics. I found some illustrators to make a few of them and I loved them! When my family and friends saw them and loved them, I decided to try it as a business.”

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  1. How did you come up with the business name?

“I liked the sound of peanut because it was a nick name we gave to my nephew (who is almost a year old now), and paired it with gallery because we make custom art.”

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  1. What do you hope your business accomplishes?

“To be honest, I really just love making people’s stories come to life as comics. The stories are all so cute (and some are really funny), and the illustrators and I have to get creative to make them into comic strips that stay true to the story.”

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  1. Where would you like to see your business in 5 years?

“I’d like to see us making a good amount of people’s stories into comics every month. It’s fun making them, and it’s fun getting all of the positive feedback. We even started making some free ones for people based on cute or funny stories we see on Twitter. The free ones don’t have personalized characters, but most people are really happy to see their stories as comic strips.”

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  1. As a busy working dad, how do you find the time to balance it all?

“It’s funny, I get asked that all the time. I guess I stay up fairly late and usually do a good amount of work after my son goes to bed, but it doesn’t seem that hard. Maybe it’s because I like it so much. Although I have noticed I don’t watch TV much anymore.”

  1. If someone is interested in purchasing a comic, how can they go about it?

They can purchase online from our site, http://www.peanutgallerycomics.com/ or send an email to info@peanutgallerycomics.com if they have any questions.

I have had the pleasure to have one of my moments with my daughter captured in a comic strip by Peanut Gallery Comics and I will treasure it forever! Matt was very professional from beginning to end and of course the end result was stunning.

A Momma Braga Moment Captured on a Comic Strip
A Momma Braga Moment on a Comic Strip

Following them on social media has been great and really funny too. Make sure to follow them to see what other moments they have captured.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PGComics/?fref=ts
Instagram: @peanutgallerycomics
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PG_Comics

Matt is a talented father who has given parents an opportunity to capture their precious moments into comic strips that they can treasure forever. Matt even offers some great advice for all parents to note, “Keep making cute and funny memories! And make sure to capture them somewhere, even if it’s not as a custom comic. Write them down so you don’t lose them. It’s the small moments and memories that are really precious, the way your kid says something or the way they expressed themselves in a uniquely “them” kind of way.”

Very well said Matt and I have now purchased a notebook to capture some of these precious moments! Thank you Matt for your time and keep making memories come alive in print!

I am happy to extend a special offer from Matt of Peanut Gallery Comics to all my amazing readers. If you purchase a comic from them use promo code: MommaBraga to get $10 off your order! Thanks Matt as I know my readers will appreciate this great offer!

Until next time…..Happy Parenting!

–          Momma Braga

Taking the Mess and Stress Out of Mealtime

Family meal times are great moments to spend some quality time together but if your home is anything like mine, then it can be hectic and really messy! Sometimes food lands on the floor or better yet the whole plate does.

Well Lindsay Laurain (ezpz’s founder) had the same issue in her home but with a family much bigger than mine with three boys under the age of four. So they decided to invent a solution – the ezpz Happy Mat.

So when I was introduced to the Happy Mat by ezpz, I was super excited to try it out! The Happy Mat is an all-in-one placement + plate that captures kids’ messes. It suctions directly to the table, making it nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over. It is designed for infants and toddlers (9 months+) with a variety of different colors (blue, coral, gray & lime) and styles available (happy mat, happy bowl, and mini mat).

My daughter Nikki picked the lime happy mat and I love it as you can never miss it!

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We have been using the happy mat for about two weeks now and we simply love it! It is so easy to use, clean and store. The happy mat is 100% silicone; dishwasher safe; BPA free; PVC free; Phthalate free; hypo-allergenic; and does not harbor bacteria. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

But it gets better! The happy mat promotes self-feeding and it helps children develop their fine motor skills. It also helps children with special needs such as autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and low vision. I think this is my favourite part of ezpz and how they are making a difference in the lives of families. Lindsey has dedicated resources to make proper eating techniques and awareness of appropriate developmental milestones a focus of the company. She has even hired, Dawn Winkelmann, M.S., CCC-SLP, as the Special Needs Program Coordinator and Feeding Specialist. Therefore, ezpz’s products are tested and approved by Ms. Winkelmann and other therapists to ensure that neurotypical children as well as kids with special needs, can use their products. To learn more about how they are making a difference and to read some beautiful testimonials, please click here.

Nikki and I also love how creative we can be with the happy mat. We can position the food in the three compartments and even on the mat to create fun designs. I find these fun designs help make mealtime fun for everyone. You don’t need to be an artist to create them and I am sure your little one won’t notice if it doesn’t look like a masterpiece. Using the happy mat has made mealtime more enjoyable and less messy. Nikki also enjoys her meals more as she loves the three compartments on the plate and the ability to place food on the mat. The company motto is “take the mess and stress out of mealtime” and that is exactly what this product does!

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Now if you have not yet connected on why this business name, let me help you out. Lindsay wanted to make life and mealtimes easier for parents, so a little more “ezpz”. Love it in every way!

Nikki and I give the Happy Mat 5 happy smiles out of 5. The only downfall for us, is that we didn’t get this product sooner! 😉 We highly recommend this product to any family and this would make an excellent baby shower or even first birthday gift!

To purchase a happy mat, please click here. If you are located in Canada, you may visit http://hipmommies.ca/quality-products-for-health-and-baby/ezpz or http://www.snugglebugz.ca/happy-mats.html, just to name a couple.

Make sure to follow ezpz on social media as I am expecting much more from them! Stay tuned for ezpz Pets products that are coming soon – exciting!

Website: http://www.ezpzfun.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ezpzfun
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ezpzfun
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ezpzfun/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ezpzfun/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyrHrN-7yp6AtkcO1JxwO-w

Until next time…..Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga
#MelandNikkiReview
#ezpzfun

Not Just a Party, but an Experience of a Lifetime

This month’s “Dad of the Month” is an inspiring man who’s best friend and business partner is his twin brother. He is humble, kind, loves what he does and knows how to coordinate a fantastic party! But not just any party, but an experience of a lifetime.

I am talking about Jian Magen of Magen Boys Entertainment (MBE).

At a very young age, twin brothers Jian and Page Magen had a natural ability to bring people together to celebrate. Out of the love and passion of creating lasting memories for people through events, came the start of Magen Boys Entertainment (MBE).

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Launched in 1999, MBE started out as a two-man disc jockey team. Today, MBE is Canada’s #1 turn-key event production and entertainment company with close to 100 staff, first-class inventory of technical, media and staging equipment and a 10,000 square foot office, showroom and warehouse.

They create unforgettable events by customizing every detail around their unique clients. They even state: “We promise your party will be an experience of a lifetime.” MBE will coordinate every aspect of your party, including; venue selection, theme, decor, vendor management, entertainment, schedule, budget and on site execution to name a few. They have highly qualified event producers to professional singers, musicians, DJ’s, emcee’s, dancers and performers to the state of the art lighting, staging, and sound systems. MBE provides the best in production, entertainment and decor for every type of event imaginable. Whether it’s a corporate event; special events; weddings; mitzvahs; sporting events; confirmations and Sweet 16’s; and Talent Acquisition.

With MBE, the possibilities are endless. Make sure to follow them on social media to see what exciting events that they are up to as you never know what celebrity has taken them on.

Website: www.magenboys.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Magenboys
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/magenboys
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/MagenBoysEnt

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I have had the sincere pleasure to work with Jian on events that I have coordinated in the past and I knew that if he was involved it would always be a great success. Jian always ensured that everything went smoothly from the beginning to end. His friendliness and professionalism was always top notch. Jian would take our events to the next level of awesome and I was always grateful to have him by our side.

When I asked Jian where he would like to see his business in 5 years, he noted that if business continues to grow at the pace its going, he would have no reason to be anything but happy and lucky. One of the areas he would love to see grow would be the MBE film division that they launched a few years back. With their second feature film under their belt, Jian and his brother are excited to continue growing this side of their business.

But it hasn’t just been business growing, as Jian’s family was as well. Jian became a dad in 2015 with the birth of his son and his family is growing again with baby #2 on the way. So how does he ensure business success and a growing family?! Well, I asked him how he does it all. Jian stated, “It’s all about making priorities and to make as much time as possible to spend it with my family.”

Jian is our Dad of the month as he is an inspirational person who built a great company from the ground up. Of course it hasn’t been easy and required a lot of hard work to achieve what he has through MBE. He balances a busy work schedule and ensures that he is there for his growing family with much love. Jian is also humble and never forgets his family and friends. You know that you can always count on him if you need something.

When I asked Jian what he would like to end with he stated, “Being named Dad of the month is such an honour for me, thank you.”

But I am the one who needs to say thank you to Jian for all his hard work, dedication, friendship and time. Don’t forget to check out Magen Boys Entertainment for an experience of a lifetime.

Congratulations Jian!

Until next time…..Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga

Dad of the Month Adds Some Saucy Kytchen

Sometimes with the hustle and bustle of motherhood it is great to take a break from cooking. One of our family favourites to eat from is a local Italian sandwich restaurant called Saucy Kytchen. This place has amazing food and service but you wouldn’t expect anything less if you knew the owner, Kevin. This is why Kevin is our Momma Braga“Dad of the Month”.

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Saucy Kytchen is located at 730 Lakeshore Rd., East in Mississauga, Ontario. They have a variety of different food items available on their menu and one of our family favourites is the Steak and Egg Sandwich. Talk about delicious and a must try from their menu! They also have meatless options such as their eggplant sandwich which I have heard is the very best. I also can’t forget about the delicious mozzarella sticks! There is just so much to choose from their menu and it can delight just about any type of person.

In addition, Kevin just added a Junior menu which he calls, Junior Sammies, and this menu is now available! Love this idea and concept! Talk about including all in the family and standing out from the rest! But I am really not surprised that Kevin added this as he is always thinking of family and you really do feel like family when you go there.

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Saucy Kytchen started off as a dream for Kevin, and it became reality in February of 2012. Kevin and his wife had a strong passion for the culinary arts and a desire to bring great Italian food to the city of Mississauga. They spent months working with a professional chef from Italy to learn how to perfect the sauce. They knew by perfecting the sauce they could provide a product superior to their competitors.

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So, why the name Saucy Kytchen? Kevin stated that originally he wanted to call the restaurant, Carlos Sandwiches, after his father but than his wife came up with the name of Saucy Kytchen and it just clicked.

When people visit Saucy Kytchen, they can expect a welcoming environment with superb customer service. Saucy Kytchen brings a more modern cooking style, fresh ingredients and a passion in the preparation of their food which makes them stand out from the rest.

Could Saucy Kytchen get any better? Well, yes! They offer catering which is amazing! You can now bring their delicious food to your next meeting or event. To learn more about their catering services, please feel free to give them a call at (905) 990-2495. You can also order Saucy Kytchen on Skip The Dishes (*area restrictions may apply for delivery).

When I asked Kevin where he would like to see Saucy Kytchen go in the next five years, he stated that he would love to expand and open a few more locations. In addition, he is currently working on perfecting his pizza recipe soon. We are extremely excited about the pizza as we already love it, so we can’t wait to taste the new recipe!

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And of course, Saucy Kytchen is on social media and please feel free to follow them. But I must warn you that your mouth will water with every picture posted!

Instagram: @saucykytchen
Twitter: https://twitter.com/saucykytchen
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/public/Saucy-Kytchen
Website: http://www.saucykytchen.com/

Kevin keeps very busy in ensuring that all his customers are always satisfied with their meals and he works hard at maintaining excellent customer service in the front lines. So how does he balance this and a family? Kevin stated that his goal every day is to leave work at 5pm to go home and spend as much time as he can with his 3 year old daughter and wife.

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And if life couldn’t get any busier for him, his wife is expecting baby #2 soon and we couldn’t be happier for this beautiful and loving family.

Kevin is our dad of the month as he is an inspiration! His motivation and drive to follow his dreams to open up a sandwich shop and to work hard in building it, is amazing! But what makes him more amazing is the fact that family always comes first and they are his everything!

Congratulations Kevin and keep up the amazing work!

Until next time……Happy Parenting!

– Mommy Braga

Plush Memories

As a first time mom, it is hard not to get attached to your baby’s clothes. I know personally, that there are many pieces that I have for Nikki that I just can’t part with as they have sentiment value. Sometimes it can get a little much and we end up with a pile of clothing that we know won’t be used again. So why not take some of the pieces and transform them into a teddy bear?

Nikki and I were so excited to come across, Plush Memories, who do exactly that! Plush Memories is located in Toronto, Canada which is our hometown. We had a chance to ask the owner and creator of Plush Memories, Shoshi, some questions on her unique business.

1. What does your company do?

We transform sentimental clothing into beautiful keepsake teddy bears. Many of our orders have been from parents that want to have a keepsake teddy bear made of their children’s baby clothing and/or blankets, or people who want to give them to others as a special gift. We also make special teddy bears from sentimental clothing from loved ones who have passed. Those seem to turn out extra special. Each bear is so unique and I love being able to re-use old clothing and transform it into a new keepsake teddy bear.

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2. When did you start your business?

It is a fairly new, March 2015.

3. How did you come up with the idea?

I actually saw the idea on Facebook. Someone in the United States was making a similar product and I saw that many people were interested in ordering one and this person had posted that she could no longer take any more orders as she was overwhelmed. I did some research and saw that there was a need for someone to offer this sort of product locally, so I decided that person would be me.

4. What do you hope your business accomplishes with each bear? 

I hope that each bear helps to preserve special sentimental items so that they can be cherished for a life time instead of being stored away where no one can see them.

5. How long does it take to do a bear?

Each teddy bear is a lot of work and typically takes two to three weeks to make.

6. If someone is interested in purchasing a teddy bear, what do they need to do?

They should contact me directly as we will need to discuss how many items need to be provided and which materials work best. The way they can reach me is either through my Facebook page, through my website or by email.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Plushmemories
Website: www.plushmemoriesbears.com
Email: plushmemories@gmail.com

7. Where would you like to see your business in 5 years?

I would like to expand the business to a wider market and be able to have more than one person sewing the teddy bears, this way they could be made and sent back faster. I also want to be able to offer embroidery and expand on the choices of keepsakes such as other kinds of animals, pillows and blankets.

8. How is your company unique?

My company is unique as it is able to create one of a kind products. Each one of the teddy bears is truly a custom creation. The only time that bears have ever been exactly the same was when it was made for twin boys as it was requested to have twin teddy bears.

In closing, Shoshi added, “I love seeing the look on my customer’s faces when they see their teddy bear for the first time. They always look amazed to see the clothing item that they knew so well, look different yet the same when it is transformed into a bear.”

Nikki and I highly recommend this company and give them 5 teddy bears out of 5! What a beautiful concept in creating a sentimental keepsake. We have placed our order and can’t wait to see it!

Special thank you to Shoshi for her time and professionalism. Did I mention she is also a new mom?! What an inspiring woman and mom!

– Momma Braga   

#MelandNikkiReview